Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Asking GREAT questions ....

One of my favorite blogs to read is Seth Godin's. Part of it is his great ideas on marketing but every now and then he throws in new topics or ideas that he picks up from other people. Today's post by Seth gives John Sawatsky's "seven rules for a great interview" as well as a link to a great article from the American Journal Review. John now works as director of talent development for ESPN.

The following paragraphs from the AJR article were of particular interest and might be helpful the next time you are your club's TableTopics Master !

American Journalism Review: "He sees his method [of interviewing] as the journalistic equivalent of judo. 'When someone attacks us, our first instinct is to resist with force. This is not good news for small people. Judo teaches cooperation, to use the bigger opponent's size to our advantage. It's the same in an interview. We're playing on their turf. We're generalists interviewing people who know their subject, and we don't. If we fight them head-on, we lose. They know more than we do. If we turn it around, if we make them prove everything, we turn our weakness into strength. Don't fight their superior knowledge, use it.'"

"Without agreement, the journalist spars for control with the source, lurching back and forth between coercive questions and flat assertions. Sawatsky calls it "moving back and forth between 'outputting' and 'inputting.' " Outputting is any time you make a statement, interject a value, voice an opinion. Inputting is when you ask nothing but neutral, open-ended questions. People, by nature, are either "inputters" or "outputters," he says. TV journalists, for instance, tend to leave their dial on output. Inputters are straight men, allowing sources to crack wise and showcase personality. "I can go into any newsroom and usually tell you who gets the best stories in the paper. It's usually the reporters with the blander personality. They're not the life of the party. They're amazingly consistent if you eavesdrop on them during interviews: You'll hear plain, neutral, bland questions. Colorless questions usually provide colorful answers."

John provides a glimpse into the media and interviewing that not many of use get a chance to see, much less analyze or understand the mechanics so we can use them in our own life.

I am definitely going to try using John's techniques the next time I am talking to someone I don't know. I think these ideas would be very valuable in normal conversation when your only goal is to get to know the person.

Speak UP!

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